FALLING TUNNELLING costs are boosting the case for a major programme of congestion busting road tunnels, according to a document published today by the Automobile Association (AA).
Road tunnels are the best way to solve severe congestion, pollution and road safety problems in urban areas, says the report.
Road tunnelling has become very popular worldwide and the UK has fallen behind the rest of Europe in using road tunnels.
The report cites major tunnelling projects in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Brussels, Madrid and Sydney as recent examples.
There have been encouraging signs in the UK with road tunnels planned at Hindhead in Surrey, Stonehenge in Wiltshire and Southwick Hill in Sussex. But British planners 'must lift their sights' and take road tunnelling more seriously, says AA head of policy John Dawson.
The AA report claims that tunnelling is more justified now because costs are falling at a rate of 4% a year. At the moment tunnels cost an average of around £50M per kilometre.
Urban tunnelling is now cheaper than surface building, where acquiring land or moving utilities is expensive, and public inquiries very time consuming, says the report.
'As tunnelling costs continue to fall, there are new options to 're-conquer' degraded surface streets in our towns and cities, ' says the report.
'Tunnels can take through roads away from people. Local roads can be freed up, reducing the risk of emergency services being stuck in heavy traffic, improving the reliability of buses, and making walking and cycling safer.'
An AA spokesman added: 'In London, for example, the option of building tunnels to deal with capacity problems isn't even on the agenda when road capacity issues are looked at, but it should be.'
The report claims that technologies for boring tunnels have made rapid advances thanks to the Channel Tunnel and other projects. New technologies for blasting tunnels have also slashed the price of rural tunnelling where the right geology exists, it adds. The safety record of rural tunnels is twice as good as rural roads, it adds.
For a copy of Going Underground. Tunnels: What role in town and country?
contact Motorist@theaa. com